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Ridden: ADO Air A20 - Quite Possibly the Perfect City e-Bike

There's no such thing as "perfection," and we all know or should know it. But we wouldn't be human if we didn't strive to find it, reach it, or achieve it. ADO e-Bike comes very close with the Air A20, quite possibly the perfect city bike you can order today.
The ADO Air A20 is a lightweight, foldable, high-quality and high-performance e-bike. Not expensive, either 60 photos
Photo: Elena Gorgan for autoevolution
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The ADO Air A20, or Air for short, is the newest entry in the lineup of China-based bike manufacturer ADO, or A Dece Oasis, which stands for "oasis in the desert." It kicks off a new series of products so it's different from the other entries: more elegant, lighter, and higher-specced.

It's actually the second A20 model, but it lives up to the "Air" monicker with a particularly light frame and enhanced performance thanks to a combination of carbon belt drive, a new torque sensor, and powerful motor. It's a perfect city e-bike if you happen to be looking for one. No joke.

Design Evaluation

The e-bike market has grown at an incredible rate over the past three years for reasons many of us probably choose not to look back on. 2020 was a bad year in every possible way, except for how it drove the demand for urban mobility solutions through the roof, which, in turn, translated into a wider range of motor-assisted two-wheelers.

Three years later, we're still riding that high wave. If you're the kind who doesn't like to rely on public transport for the daily commute or who would rather ditch the personal car at least every once in a while, a bike is a good choice. A motor-assisted bicycle is an even better one because you get extended daily range with less effort, app connectivity, and extra comfort.

The ADO Air A20 is a lightweight, foldable, high\-quality and high\-performance e\-bike\. Not expensive, either
Photo: Elena Gorgan for autoevolution
The Air dropped on crowdfunding earlier this year, almost four years after the initial design, and the campaign secured the necessary funds to go into mass production in almost record time. When I covered it in March, it had already inspired enough riders to back it by promising to be a high-quality product that was also ultra-light, very convenient, and high-performance. But anyone can throw fancy words around, and it doesn't make them true.

That's not the case with the Air. From the moment you unbox it, you can tell it's different from most e-bikes in this price range. It arrives folded and wrapped in plastic, so no need to fret about how the long haul from China might affect its components and assembly is a matter of a few minutes. You get the bike, fenders, a phone mount, and the charger in the box, together with some tools and the owner's manual.

The frame is aluminum alloy painted in black, white, or the most delicious pastel matte blue you'll see in the photos, which is even prettier in real life. The Air rides on 20-inch wheels with puncture-resistant tires, has no suspension and comes with a maximum load weight of 120 kg (264.5 lbs). It weighs 16 kg (35.2 lbs) for the EU version, which packs a 250W motor, and 17.5 kg (37.5 lbs) for the international one, with the 350W motor that's not electronically limited to 25 kph (15.5 mph).

The cockpit is sleek and elegant, matching the rest of the bike. On the left, you have a color display rated IPS IPX7, and ADO says it's the only one on the market right now that remains visible in direct sunlight and can be used in the rain. I can vouch for the former, there's excellent visibility on it at all times, but I did not have the weather conditions to test the latter. Even if I had, I wouldn't have had the heart to do it intentionally, most likely.

The ADO Air A20 is a lightweight, foldable, high\-quality and high\-performance e\-bike\. Not expensive, either
Photo: Elena Gorgan for autoevolution
The display shows the PAS level, distance traveled on a trip, average speed, total mileage on the bike, and battery charge, and includes buttons for going up and down PAS levels and an off button. Pair the bike with the companion app via Bluetooth, and you get access to a secondary menu that allows certain customization, like switching from kph to mph, from three PAS levels to five, control of the lights, and other stats. Navigation is coming, too, promising stress-free rides across unfamiliar cities.

The motor is a standard 250W with 37 Nm of torque (42 Nm for the 350W version, which also gets a thumb throttle), but the cells on the 36V 9.6 Ah battery are Samsung. A full charge is achieved in 4 to 6 hours' time, and you're promised a 100-km (62-mile) range on that. It seems like a lot, especially for a bike of this kind, with a sleek battery integrated into the seatpost, but that figure checks in real life.

You get hydraulic brakes for excellent stopping power, a torque sensor for instant assistance with no delay, front and rear lights, a small classic bell, comfy grips on the handlebars, a comfy saddle that can be upgraded if needed, and foldable pedals. The entire bike is foldable, with hinges at the stem and the middle of the frame for a more compact and theoretically easy-to-carry form factor.

Real World Application

ADO calls the Air an "urban hummingbird," and strong metaphoric game aside, they're not exaggerating. It's not just the motor that's surprisingly silent, but the bike itself is. Designed to cruise around the city at leisure, the Air is perfectly capable of being a little – and very pretty – speed demon, but you won't hear it in either mode. It doesn't rattle (only the phone mount does, but it's not technically part of the bike), and it doesn't squeak or make any other suspicious noises. It just rides, humming ever so delicately.

The ADO Air A20 is a lightweight, foldable, high\-quality and high\-performance e\-bike\. Not expensive, either
Photo: Elena Gorgan for autoevolution
The Air is very nimble and incredibly responsive, and it's in great part thanks to the carbon belt drive. As ADO promises, you get instant motor assistance with zero delays, which means you won't miss the torque throttle, whether going uphill or crossing an area with heavy pedestrian traffic. The fact that you don't have any traditional gears is, for once, a most welcome surprise. The hydraulic brakes are an excellent addition.

The torque sensor adapts the motor assistance to your own input and the terrain you're riding on, so delivery is constant at all times. This means the Air provides a smooth and very enjoyable experience from the start to the end of the journey. Speaking of ends, all my test outings ended with a tinge of regret despite finding myself taking the longest route to my destination. The Air is the kind of bike you want to keep riding even after you're done with your errands, for the sheer pleasure of it.

The bike has three levels of PAS (pedal assist), with 0 being the pedal-only mode. Because of its light weight and larger wheels, PAS 0 won't cramp your legs, but it's definitely not as fun as riding with the motor. Thanks to the carbon belt drive and the smooth motor assistance, switching between PAS levels is seamless, assuming you will want or feel the need to do that. Most of my rides were in PAS 1 because I like to feel like I'm still riding a bicycle and because the motor assistance is superior to most e-bikes I've tried. PAS 3 does come in handy on steeper climbs, though, or when riding in traffic.

ADO promises 100 km (62 miles) of range on a single charge, and while most range estimates fall way shorter in real-life scenarios, the Air is the exception. Estimated range is highly dependent on factors like riding style, terrain, weather conditions, and the rider's weight, but you're going to get that range ADO promises or something close to it before the expected depreciation. For instance, one particular 16-km (10-mile) ride with gusts of wind of 20+ kph (12.5+ mph), including inclines, was just 10% of the total charge. That's very neat for a foldable bicycle.

The ADO Air A20 is a lightweight, foldable, high\-quality and high\-performance e\-bike\. Not expensive, either
Photo: Elena Gorgan for autoevolution
Even though it's a foldable bicycle, you don't feel any compromise in the way it handles, either on the road or when hauled by hand in folded position. It doesn't rattle or feel loose in the joints, and both locking mechanisms have failsafes that ensure they won't come unlocked by accident.

The only slightly bothering issue is that the bike tends to spread open when folded, so you either have to practice until you develop a system of holding it and carrying it without that happening, or you spend another €19.9 (US$21.5) on a magnetic buckle. Either way is fine and makes the issue less important, even if you have to fold it and carry it this way on the daily.

If you do have to do that – say, carry it onto public transport or up a flight of stairs to your home – ADO has included a walk mode on the display. It engages the motor and moves it at the legally allowed speed of 5 kph (3.1 mph), which is just enough so you can roll it folded to wherever you need it to be without any effort.

Conclusion

The ADO Air A20 is a surprising bicycle in motion, even though it might not seem like it on paper. It's lightweight but sturdy, nimble and comfortable, despite the fact that it has no suspension. But it's the upgrades like the carbon belt drive, the Samsung battery, the motor, the torque smart sensor, and the hydraulic brakes that make all the difference.

The ADO Air A20 is a lightweight, foldable, high\-quality and high\-performance e\-bike\. Not expensive, either
Photo: Elena Gorgan for autoevolution
Overall, it's an e-bike that shows care for the customer and attention to detail, a bike that puts safety, performance and comfort at the forefront, where they should always be. It delivers all these in one single, very good-looking package.

Deliveries for backers of the Air started in March 2023, and the bike is currently available for pre-order for everyone else at a discounted price of €1,349 ($1,453). Even at full price, €1,999 ($2,154), it's still one step ahead of similarly-priced e-bikes and, because of this and everything else, the perfect city e-bike. No "buts" this time.

Pros
  • Foldable & lightweight
  • Instant motor assistance
  • Powerful & highly responsive
  • Solid range
  • Comfortable & nimble
  • Excellent braking
  • App connectivity

Cons
  • No suspension
  • Tends to open during transport when folded

Rating: 5 / 5
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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